Safer Group Sex

Denim-SensualistOver the course of a few events and with a few different folks, I ended up having a few different conversations about group sex, threesomes, sex parties, poly-fuckery, etc. How do we apply safer sex practices to these situations. How do we keep our partners, and ourselves, health happy and whole. So this blog post is me wanting to post some ideas. If you have extra ones, I’d love to hear about them and add addendums below the initial post.

Some of these might apply to you and your play, some of it might not. A lot of this applies to partnered sex in general too, so ideas that can cross over from there are also welcome. And yup, some of the stuff under a given heading could likely be it’s own category… this post is imperfect 🙂

Here we go:

  1. Not everyone knows their status… or discloses it
    Even if you know that your play partner is AIM tested (or does some sort of other STD panel) every month, if everyone involved has not done so, that does not mean a lot. One person who is not operating at the same level means that the whole group is being exposed.
    Even if your partners are all AIM tested, this only covers HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia. It does not include hepatitis-C, any of the herpes simplexes, crabs, or genital warts. Thus, herpes can be skin to skin, and of course penis into vagina/anus can be issues for all of them.
    Oral sex may not get someone pregnant, but it does not take away risks for all STDs. Though transmission through oral sex is on the lower end of the spectrum, oral gonorrhea is currently an issue on the rise:
    http://www.medicinenet.com/oral_gonorrhea_symptoms/views.htm
    So are other challenges, such as oral-to-vaginal herpes spreading (or the other direction). Just because you know the status of your partner on some things, does not mean you know their status on everything. In fact, they may not know, or not consider what they have to be a big issue. Folks with cold sore histories may not know that that means they have herpes symplex-1. This does not make them a bad person, just a person who may not know they might want to disclose. Some folks consider a partner going down on them who have oral herpes to be a big issue, others might consider it a big deal.
    As with the Darren James situation with AIM, it also only takes one person having had sex with one person with an STD since their last checkup to spread it around a community that does not use condoms:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adult_Industry_Medical_Health_Care_Foundation
    There are also folks who do not disclose their status because of shame around the issue. Thus, setting the bar very high is a great place to start. Or, be honest with yourself or others that if you will not be using condoms, dams, gloves dams, etc for everything, that all parties are making an informed decision that STDs and STIs may come into play. This also means that if you are someone who says “I assume everyone has everything,” that if someone does disclose to you (in some cases requiring a great deal of bravery on their parts), you shouldn’t need to change your behaviors. Look at what that assumption really means to you.
    And if you choose to play bareback with everyone, that is your choice. But understand that your choices affect everyone you play with. Having unprotected oral sex with a stranger means that everyone you have oral sex with is also having oral sex with that stranger. Oral ghonnorea, crabs, et al are a gift that keeps on giving.
  2. Watch where your hands go
    Though HIV can die when dry 20 seconds out of the body, that is not the case for everything. Hepatitis C can live weeks out of the body, even dry. And note the word dry- holding a canister of lube, then picking it up for the next person with the gloves you will be touching them with, can cause challenges.
    This applies more to bacteria. Touching your own hair can lead to whatever was in your hair now ending up in her vagina. The same goes with touching door knobs, picking up supplies, touching tables, etc. Plus? The next person to sit on the table, or touch that doorknob, did not necessarily desire to sit on those body fluids.
  3. Color-code your condoms (works for gloves and dams)
    I think this is a great idea. It provides for not getting confused as to what went into whom.
    I got the idea from this first link, but the other two are very much worth the read on safer sex in threesomes:
    http://www.tripproject.ca/trip/?q=node/1932
    http://www.successfulnonmonogamy.com/safer-sex/
    http://sexpressed.com/20130226/
    This applies even if all partners are fluid bonded… if it is a female-male-female pairing (FMF):
    M is fluid bonded to F1
    F2 is not fluid bonded to either, and wants to stay that way
    M goes down on F1 bareback
    M then comes up and kisses F2
    F2 now has F1 vaginal fluids on her face.
    The dental dam F1 was using on F2 to prevent fluid transmission has not been gone around.
    If someone sees a triad of folks playing without dams/condoms, and is invited to join in, that new person may also think that going down on anyone without barriers is just dandy, or that going from person to person without facial cleaning is okay. If your play involves adding in strangers, having spotters or lights on can make a world of difference. Is that new person following the level of your safer sex needs? Your line might include a hands-on/eyes-on check of the pubic area of your partner while giving them a hand-job. Is their pubic area free of bumps and legions that you don’t want near your mucosal membranes? This is a chance to shift from penetration to hands-on play and massage instead… still having a gratifying group play encounter without going beyond your comfort level or safety. Afterwards, you can also lovingly let them know so they can go take care of their health.
    Just because there was one slip-up with your barrier or other practices, does not mean that you should now discard all safer sex practices. Get on the horse and start again. One second of exposure is different than an entire night, or making a relationship decision to become fluid bonded because you had one condom break. Deal with the condom breakage on every level you see fit, get tested, wait and get tested again… and still keep using safer sex practices with that partner.
  4. Lube container for each bottom
    At Dark Odyssey, there are Dixie cups for each person to put their own lube into from a big container, so that no messy hands have to touch the container. If hands are dirty, you are supposed to pump with their not-dirty elbow.
    Bottoms can also bring their own lube bottle and pump/pour for you. That’s really common with men’s fisting parties, so that only hands that touched my butt ever touch my lube container. Multiple hands, sure, but those gloves have only touched me.
    Lube assistants also rock. Folks who will pour lube for you.
    If you only have one lube container, have the Bottom glove up, hold the pump bottle, and pump into your hands for you. It also makes finger-banging and fisting a cooperative sport!
  5. Enthusiastic consent
    Especially when joining in on activities already in action, make sure everyone is truly game. Sneaking in, especially without knowing someone’s safer sex line of comfort, is uncool. Receptive folks may be in an altered state of consciousness and Journey-Enthusiasmunable to communicate at that moment. Go ahead and ask. Or assume for highest level of stuff, glove up, and don’t even kiss. That’s right- some folks do not want to kiss because of oral-to-oral concerns. And? That is completely reasonable. Kissing is a higher STD concern than gloved fisting is.
    Consent also applies to whether your partner is “willing to put up with something.” There is a difference between that and being honestly interested and enthusiastic. Some relationship dynamics will “take one for the team,” making one partner’s fantasies happen even if they aren’t really excited about the idea. That is up to you. But if you find yourself angry, resentful or pissed off each time you do group play, it might be worth assessing whether it is healthy for you and your partnership.
    If you are faking it, your partner might honestly think you are enjoying it. Transparency can be sexy, especially if you can say it with what you *do* want, rather that what sucks. Trying “I want to watch both of your faces, maybe we can try positions that do that” is different than “I never get to see your faces, I hate that.” Or, “you always hit my cervix” vs. “can we try other positions that are less likely to hit my cervix?”
    De-brief of excellence and how we can make it even better next time is also great after the fact. And I don’t mean right after you cum. People may still be high from the rush of it all, and be emotionally sensitive to feedback.
  6. Gloves and dams are cheap(ish)
    Wearing gloves for everyone is a good idea, not just because gloves are sexy (great plug for sexy safer sex BTW), but because their body fluids can get caught underneath your fingernails.
    It is okay to use a set of gloves, use them to play, and then take them off and trade out for a new set if you are unsure if they got dirty.
    If a dam flips over, don’t flip it back. The “you” side now has their fluids on it.
    Now, if you only have one set of gloves, and they are willing to go over to the sink and turn it on for you and pump soap into your hands so you can wash them without contaminating the space, awesome. Save the planet and all that. But don’t use lubed up hands to touch the sink nobs. See issue above for door nobs.
  7. Safer sexy sex
    Here is the handout (co-authored with Aiden Fyre) from the class I did on it.
    http://passionandsoul.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/SexySaferSex-SarahLawrence-Handout-final.pdf
    Scott Thomson and I also did a podcast on the topic:
    http://passionandsoul.libsyn.com/ps003-sexy-safer-sex-and-more
    Some quick ideas:

    • Attach dental dam in place with garter belt or alternative use of nipple clamps
    • Lube up gloves while starting with sexy eyes at your partner
    • Have bottom roll condom on to show they are interested/engaged
    • Latex fetish oral worship
    • Putting sex supplies out in a container next to the bed so they are easy to access and look good too
    • Get sexy looking supplies
    • Test out condoms, gloves and dams with yourself or for test-runs pre-play. Heat of the moment is not a great time to use a dental dam for the first time.
    • Find a favorite brand of condom. They all fit differently.
    • Have fun with it!

So there you go, a few ideas from my head to yours.
Have fun, and play to your delight! And the delight of everyone… not just for tonight, but for the rest of your life.

If so moved…

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Lee Harrington

Lee Harrington is an internationally known sexuality, relationships, and personal authenticity educator. Having taught in all 50 states and in 6 countries, he brings a combination of playful engagement and thoughtful academic dialogue to a broad audience. An award-winning author and editor on gender, sexual, and sacred experience, his books include “Traversing Gender: Understanding Transgender Journeys,” and "Sacred Kink: The Eightfold Paths of BDSM and Beyond," among many other titles. He has been blogging online since 1998, and been teaching worldwide since 2001. Welcome to his world, and your chance to expand your mind and heart alike.

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